Shetcliffe in North Bierley

George Redmonds

(First published in 1986 in volume 2, pp. 15-16, of the third series of The Bradford Antiquary, the journal of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society.)

Shetcliffe Hall in North Bierley lay to the south-west of Tong Street, at the Junction of Toftshaw Lane and Shetcliffe Lane. The name Shetcliffe has a history of some 400 years, and can be attributed to a man called William Shirtcliffe, who in 1571 married Beatrice Thornton of Tyersal. This was Beatrice's second marriage: she was the daughter of Henry Tempest of Tong and had previously married William Thornton, the lord of the manor of Tyersal.1

After 1579 the name of William Shirtcliffe occurred with great frequency in local documents, once or twice in disputes over land in the neighbourhood. In 1584, for example, in a complaint concerning the commons of Tong manor, there was a reference to 'xvijd yet unpaid to me William Shirtcliffe'.2 There are also several deeds for the year 1588 which show that some of his property lay close to Tong Street, where further enclosure of the moor was taking place. A grant by Richard Tempest to Roger Pollard of Newhall clearly defined the lessee's land as lying in North Bierley 'next to the barn of William Shirtcliffe', while a grant to Thomas Stead, in the same year, mentioned 'one messuage in North Bierley, now or late in the occupation of Christopher Stead and William Shircliffe'.3 A fine of 1590 records William Shertcliffe's purchase from John Cordingley and others of houses and cottages in North Bierley and Farsley.4

Despite this clear link with North Bierley, it is unlikely that William was actually living there in that period, for the articles of agreement drawn up in 1587, between him and Richard Tempest of Tong, described him as 'William Scirtclyffe of Tyersall'.5 Similarly, in 1591, a document of the Steads, indemnifying William Pollard and Stephen Cordingley from any claim by William Shirtcliffe, also referred to him as 'of Tyersall'.6

There is some evidence though, to suggest that William moved to North Bierley son afterwards, possibly when Beatrice's son, Richard, took over the running of the Tyersall estate. In 1598, and again in 1599, when his name was linked with that of Richard Tempest of Tong, he was said to be of North Bierley. His given status, both in Tyersal and North Bierley, was that of 'gentleman'.7

I do not yet know the year in which William Shirtcliffe died, but it seems certain to have been after 1613 when the post mortem inquisition of Richard Tempest states that he held 'one cottage and one acre' on Bradford Moor.8 What also seems likely is that his family's claim to the property in North Bierley was contested after his death. This emerges in a letter of c.1630, written by Henry bannister of Ackworth to Henry Fairfax, who was in charge of the Tong estate during the minority of Henry tempest. After the usual preliminaries Bannister wrote,

"being geaven to understand that you are desirous to knowe whether Mr Shertclife deceased had any assurance of some twoe Acres… in Tonge neare unto his house in North bireley, the truth is… I have seen such a Deede firmelie sealed and Executed according to lawe."

He further stated that there were 'men yet livinge whiche weare att the execucion thereof'. It is far from clear what the dispute was about, but Bannister's claim was that both he and his wife had 'bene sued for the Evidence conserninge the said landes by one Thomas Shirtcliffe, ever since the death of the saod William'. He ended the letter by assuring Henry Fairfax that he would be able to provide him with all the necessary evidence when he visited Ackworth.9

The same docment illustrates how the place-name was developing, for on its reverse side are written the words 'Shirtliffes 2 closes'. Shortly afterwards, in the court rolls of Tong manor for 1650, land in the possession of Thmas Hirst was said to lie 'between Shirtlife lane and the more', i.e. Tong Moor,10 whilst in a description of Tong's boundaries for the year 1688, the dividing line ran from 'the closes adjoining unto North Bierley… unto Shirtcliffe house, and from thence over the Monckhills'.11 It was doubtless this house which later became known as Shetcliffe Hall.

Once this origin of the North Bierley Place-names has been established, a linguistic explanation is possible, for the Shirtcliffes derived their family name from the Sheffield hamlet of Shirecliffe, meaning 'bright, steep slope'.12 Shetcliffe is merely one more spelling variation to add to those shown in the documents quoted above.


1. W. Robertshaw 'The Hamlet or Manor of Tyersal', Bradford Antiquary, New Series, Part 34, 1947 (back)

2. Tong MSS, 8b/1, Bradford Central Libraries (back)

3. Ibid., 3/101 and 3/813. Eshton Hall MSS, 68D 82/4/6/C49 (back)

4. 'Yorkshire Fines, III', Yorkshire Archaeological Association, Record Series, Vol. VII, p.133 (back)

5. Tong MSS, 3/93 (back)

6. Eshton Hall MSS, 68D 82/4/6/C73 (back)

7. Tong MSS, 3/124 and 3/813 (back)

8. Deed Box, 1/Case 1, 52, B.C.L. (back)

9. Tong MSS, 2/227 (back)

10. Ibid, 8a/11 (back)

11. Ibid, 3/1 (back)

12. A.H. Smith The Place Names of the West Riding of Yorkshire, Vol. 1, p.212
NB '1498 Thomas Sheircliff, son of William Shyrtcliffe', T.W. Hall, A Descriptive Catalogue of Sheffield Manorial Records, Vol. 3, p.130 (back)

© 1986, George Redmonds and The Bradford Antiquary